ALISON STEWART, host:
I'm going to predict your New Year's resolution. You want to have a better handle on your finances. Okay, that wasn't really a shot in the dark. It was an educated guess based on some reporting from a poll conducted by a large international bank, which claims half the people they polled, aged 18 to 24, want to put more money away for themselves this year.
Okay, and I want THE BRYANT PARK PROJECT to achieve world dominance. It could happen, but not without some planning and dedication. Kind of like the putting-away-money thing. Of all the online money advice out there, it's hard to know where to click. Well, let's give you one place to try out.
Twenty-five-year-old Ramit Sehti runs IWillTeachYouToBeRich.com, a blog about personal finance. Now for the record, he is not an investment banker, rather a Stanford grad who studied tech and psychology and he's a nat for making finance seem accessible, so much so, his site draws about a hundred and seventy thousand views a month.
Mr. RAMIT SEHTI (IWillTeachYouToBeRich.com): Hi, Alison.
STEWART: So how did you get into the world of personal finance if you studied tech and psychology? And how is it that you base your Web content if you don't have this financial background?
Mr. SEHTI: Well, when I was high school, I had to apply to a bunch of scholarships to pay for college and the first scholarship I got was worth $2,000. And they wrote that check directly to me, which was probably a mistake.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. SEHTI: I turned around and invested it in stock market. And this was around '99, 2000, so I lost my money right away. And that's when I figured I needed to read the books, to read the magazines and really learn about personal finance.
STEWART: So what did you find when you read those books and magazines? Did they make sense to you?
Mr. SEHTI: They did. I learned that there's a lot of hype out there. And there's a lot of people trying to make money off that backs of young people. I didn't like that very much. But I also learned that there are few simple ways to get rich. And the first thing was what does rich actually mean?
For some people, it's money, for other people it's flexibility. And then I learned the things like getting started early is more important than being the smartest person in the room. So I learned a few of these simple principles and I wanted to try to communicate that to my friends in college.
STEWART: So when you titled your blog being, IWantToTeachYouToBeRich.com, you're being a little bit cheeky in that, that rich doesn't necessarily mean that you're a mini-Donald Trump.
Mr. SEHTI: That's right. IWillTeachYouToBeRich.com sounds like a big, fat scam, but it's actually not. It's really about long-term banking, budgeting, saving, investing and I'd fill in some entrepreneurship there as well.
STEWART: Now you wrote that 2007 was the year of conscious spending. What exactly does that mean?
Mr. SEHTI: Conscious spending - I came up with this concept after I saw my friends looking at their bills at the end of every month and shrugging, saying, I guess I spent that much last month. And what I wanted to do was help everyone decide what's important to spend on and what's not important so that they could get away from feeling guilty, but actually decide strategically or consciously what they wanted to spend on.
You know, I have a friend whose name is Jim(ph) and he really doesn't care where he lives. So he saves quite a bit of money on rent. He really doesn't care too much about out at fancy restaurants, but he does love biking. He's a long-term - long-distance biker and he spends a lot of money on his biking equipment. And I love that because he's a great example of showing you can spend money on the things you love and cut costs mercilessly on the things you don't.
STEWART: Well one of the ways that you get your message across on your Web site is you tell stories and you tell stories about things that you've done. You recently made a bet about gaining weight to prove a point about achieving goals. Can you tell us about that?
Mr. SEHTI: Yeah, well, you know, my friends always call me a frail Indian man.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. SEHTI: So I decided it was time to prove them wrong. So I made a bet. I bet that I could gain 15 pounds within three months. And what I want to do is show that you could do something in a really simple way. No creatine, no this fancy stuff, just working out and eating more. And so I set up this bet, I set up a PBWiki, I updated the people who bet me on a weekly basis. And what I learned was that it's important to make a goal, even if you don't hit the goal, you have something that can guide your day-to-day action. So if I were to wake up and say, you know, should I eat that extra pizza or should I work out for an extra hour? The answer to those questions was yes.
STEWART: Well it's interesting you say that I've always said there's a little bit of a correlation between Americans being overweight and also being indebt.
Mr. SEHTI: Absolutely.
STEWART: Because, you know, if you just - if you - imagine eating like spending out of your checkbook, like you're just consuming all these calories, but then you're not, you know, investing and working them off, you're going to end up in debt. And you're going to end up with more weight.
Mr. SEHTI: That is exactly right. You know, if I would ask you out and - how much money did you spend last week? Or how many calories did you eat last week? Chances are, even if you could give me an answer, it would be wildly off. And, you know, that's because we systematically underestimate how many calories we consume. We systematically underestimate how much money we spend. And we also overcomplicate these things. We say, oh, I need to eat carbs before I go to sleep and protein after I work out, and, you know, this and that. The truth is, you know, for 99 percent of people, it's really simple. Eat less, exercise more. And so what I wanted to do with IWillTeachYouToBeRich is get rid of the guilt, and just get started.
STEWART: So what do you think is going to be the biggest financial issues for young men - young Americans in '08?
Mr. SEHTI: Well, I think, the first thing I noticed from talking to my readers and my friends is that we know we should be doing something. We have this gnawing sense of guilt. We just don't know what. And that's a problem. And that's an educational problem, that's an information problem.
The second main problem I see is that we simply spend more than we make. And it's complicated to find out. So that's the second problem. So this year, I'm going to try to work on getting those - piecing those issues out, helping us find out exactly where our money is going, how to make it go where we want to go.
STEWART: And if you could tell people to do one thing in '08, what would it be?
Mr. SEHTI: Well, 2007 last year was the year of conscious spending, 2008 is going to be the year of measurement.
Mr. SEHTI: You're going to be measuring how much we actually spend, what percentage of our income goes towards saving versus going out. We're going to measuring all these things. And by the middle part of the year, we're going to have pretty rich picture of exactly what our money situation.
STEWART: I have to comment, people are laughing and in fact because you're on vacation in Tahoe.
Mr. SEHTI: That's right.
STEWART: Which means that basically, when you talk about spending, you decide you like to spend on vacations.
Mr. SEHTI: That's exactly right. Yeah, I love to travel. And so for me, that's something - when I want to go visit my family or my friends, it's something I do guilt-free. And that for me is part of being rich.
STEWART: Now, you know, there's some baby boomers saying, hey, what's with all cry-cry? What's all the whining you people in your 20s and 30s? Why is it so hard for you post-Kennedy, Nixon kids to save money? Can you explain what's different - so very different about the financial picture of 20 and 30-somethings now, as opposed to maybe, when their older brothers or sisters or the moms and dads were coming through?
Mr. SEHTI: The first thing is that we just have more opportunities to spend. We can spend online - that didn't exist 20 years ago.
STEWART: Oh yeah, that would've been a problem huh?
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. SEHTI: Exactly. Our friends are spending and they're buying iPhones, which makes us want to buy iPhones. We also have an educational problem. We don't learn about money when we're young. And finally, it's really a personal responsibility issue. We - even if there are classes offered in college - I know there were personal finance classes offered in Stanford, I even offered them myself - no one ever came. So we, as young people, need to step up and take responsibility for this as well.
STEWART: Ramit Sehti runs the Web site IWillTeachYouToBeRich.com, a blog about personal finance. Enjoy Tahoe, man.
Mr. SEHTI: Thank you very much.
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